"uselessness" of art and philosophy

There’s a joke that goes “what did the Artist (or Philosopher) say to the engineer? ‘you want fries with that?’”

Everyone thinks art and philosophy are useless or can’t get you good money. of course, as I understand it, the biggest employer of both artists and philosophers was the Church. Now that the Church isn’t the biggest boy in town anymore, all the philosophers and artists are seen as throwing their lives away, and I think that’s sad. The hellhole that current art and philosophy are mired in is also a consequence of rejecting the Church. Art isn’t beautiful anymore, and philosophy isn’t wise.

Also, what ever happened to beautiful buildings. I don’t just mean churches. Big public buildings used to have lots of little flourishes and aesthetic touches: a pattern on the floor, artistic facade, coffered ceiling, rotunda, or whatever. The older buildings at Texas A&M are like that. The Chemistry and Animal Industries buildings in particular, but all the buildings built in the last 50 years or so aren’t just ugly, they’re downright fugly; not at all inspiring.

Of course, we all know that churches have suffered the most, as beauty is an essential element of the architecture.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. While Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal and Notre Dame de Paris are beautiful in their own way, so is Le Corbusier’s Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp, France. Its simplicity has its own charm that appeals to me more than Gothic architecture.

Modern Art, if you ask me makes no sense. I’m not criticizing it or trying to sensor it, I just feel that it says nothing. Today’s "art’ appears to be nothing more than paint randomly slapped across a piece of paper, or scrap metal welded together in random patterns. I think the artist has no point in trying to express thoughts if he can’t make them understood. He’s just babbling to himself.

There certainly was a movement in construction towards a minimalist design that got rid of much of what made many older buildings unique and beautiful.

However, construction costs and material costs are also partly to blame. Those “little aesthetic touches” are very nice and enhance the building but they can send the construction cost through the roof and when a tight budget needs to be trimmed it’s those little things that will go. I’m sure there are still designers out there that would like to incorporate grand designs in tile floors or use the best marble and granite but when the differences in square foots costs goes up 20% or more its sometimes hard to justify.

The grand cathedrals and basilicas that dot Europe were expensive and labor intensive to build in their day, but to do the equivalent today with the same quality of workmanship and craftsmanship would make their budgets astronomical and put it out of the reach of only those with the deepest of pockets and resources.


I like Jeff Foxworthy’s take on modern art. He said that art is something I cant do. If I can do it, it aint art.

I can put a pipe crosswise on a pole (A sculpture on MSU campus), I can splatter paint on a canvas (pollock) I can take pictures and change the color (cant remember his name, but he is mighty famous). I can design a perfectly functional building without any beauty (I wouldnt be able to make it pretty if I tried ;))

I cant paint a mona lisa, I cant paint a chapel ceiling, I cant sculpt the David, I cant design a Gothic Cathedral.



The latter will be more beautiful until you have an art teacher that gets you to swallow the pill that convinces that you are more sophisticated if you prefer Picasso to Raphael. Charm is great, but a Church ought not be charming, it should be awe-inspiring.




Everyone thinks art and philosophy are useless or can’t get you good money. of course, as I understand it, the biggest employer of both artists and philosophers was the Church.

Cardinal rule of business; if no one is employing you; employ yourself.

Just because the world isn’t making it easy for artists of philosophers doesn’t mean that it’s not possible; you just have to care that bit more about your subject; you have to care enough to settle for less pay than businessmen.

But show me a real philosopher or artist who cared more about money than their work…

I watched a documentary a couple of years ago called “My Kid Could Paint That” and gained a lot of insight into the so-called Art World.

This four or five year old did some huge modern paintings-- too large for her to reach the corners-- and they were selling like hotcakes (how well do hotcakes sell, anyway, asked the philosopher).

There was a lot of suspicion that her father was pushing her, helping her, etc.
The funny part was when the art critic came by and interpreted all the works, obviously projecting everything he had learned onto the paintings. He even mused that this child had gone through “a Picasso phase, a Jackson Pollock phase” and so forth.

The parents made lots of money. At the end, the child painted a new picture, after three or four years, and it looked identical to her first painting-- a house, a tree, a cloud, the sun in the corner-- just like any kid her age would paint.

We’ve been duped a lot.

To Peter Gabriel:


Beautifully stated, visually.
Thank you.


I also agree with the fact that Christian art has meaning. My church looks like an Italian Renaissance chapel; very beautiful. It’s because if we are dedicating something to God with earthly materials, we should use our best and most precious materials. I know many enemies of the Church claim that religion is “just a money scam” but they don’t understand our reasoning, which I just mentioned in the last sentence.


Is…that… jesus??? What’s that… thing… beside (him?)… Is that thing holding a guitar or something, and does it have a sideways eye for a head?


btw some of your links are broken

Again, it’s all about taste. I can’t stand Rembrandt but I like Monet. I like the Louvre but the new addition to the Toronto Art Gallery makes me shudder. I like the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, not so fond of the Empire State Building.

Apparently the way the light enters Notre Dame du Haut’s windows and focuses on all the most important elements of the sanctuary is very inspiring. I haven’t been there, it’s on my bucket list.

The thing is not all of us are awed by Notre Dame de Paris. Some of us are just oppressed by the heavy elements of the architecture. I like simple. I prefer plain to decorative - probably should have been a Shaker. :smiley: I lived about 28 years without a thing on my walls out of sheer reaction to the over decorated house in which I grew up. I prefer a sanctuary with just a crucifix, an altar, an ambo and a tabernacle. Make those 4 elements beautiful and leave the background alone. Let each element speak for itself. I think anything more is fluff. That’s MY taste. I don’t expect to impose it on anyone but I don’t expect to have it ridiculed either. Just don’t ask my opinion of the banners you just put up or the statues you’ve just decorated or any of the rest. I would prefer they disappeared.

I agree with Peter Gabriel’s comments. Yes, to some degree, beauty is in the eye of the beholder but I also believe that the whole movement towards modern art tracked society’s movement towards individualism and subjectivism (i.e. if I believe that a blank white canvas is just as beautiful as a Raphael, then it is so without any reference to objective standards).

So yes, based on this conclusion, I can say with a great deal of sincerity that the Notre Dame Cathedral is beautiful and the L.A. Cathedral is a monstrosity. :wink:

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.